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The Truth about Temporary Tattoos

Updated on July 2, 2014

The Truth about Temporary Tattoos

With tattooing become an extremely popular practice by a growing number of people, temporary tattoos offer a great alternative to those who don't want something permanent on their bodies, looking to have fun or want to try it out before being tattooed permanently.

One thing about temporary tattoos, is they can be used to enhance a certain look you want to have at a given time, and can even be somewhat cosmetic, although you may not think of it when having it applied to you.

The fun side is having something done that looks completely permanent and outrageous, and surprising a loved one, friends or family with it as if it was permanent. Just make sure they have a strong heart;-)

Last but not least, some people simply don't want to endure the sometimes substantial pain that accompanies permanent tattoos (although there are some products that make tattoos pain free, or pain reduced.)

The amount of pain depends on the individual person, but also where the tattoo will be placed.

How are temporary tattoos applied?

Most the ideas we have of temporary tattoos are at some local function or fair, where there's a booth where our children will get a stick-on type or maybe an airbrush tattoo.

If they're applied without using a stick-on type, besides airbrushing, you can also have it drawn or painted on.

Temporary body art is starting to come into its own, and some quite nice designs can be put on your body, which are every bit as cool as a permanent tattoo, except of course it's temporary.

Stick-On Tattoos

Having fun with tattoos for the most of us begins with a stick-on tattoo, where you simply place the tattoo againt the skin and apply water to the back of the tattoo paper. The tattoo simply transfers to the skin, and you're ready to go.

Even with these types of temporary tattoos there's been an increased quality for adults, and they're becoming better all the time. 

Body Paint, Body Crayons and Body Pencil Tattoos

Other means of applying temporary tattoos are with body paints, pencils, crayons. These are great to use because there is as much creativity and personalized look as you can creatively think of or have the talent to make

These are extremely quick and easy to get rid of by just washing them off with soap and water. 

Temporary Airbrush Tattoos

Having a temporary tattoo airbrushed on you is one of the most realistic of all temporary tattoos, with the exception of the henna.

These very authentic looking tattoos are applied with a stencil placed against your skin and the ink is put on or inserted with an airbrush.

Your skin isn't damaged and it looks great. Again, they look very real.

Henna Tattoos

There is a lot of misinformation and uncertainty about henna tattoos for those who aren't too familiar with the industry, so I'll get into a lot more detail with that later.

Because henna tattoos last longer on the skin, it must be taken into consideration when applying it. It'll leave, but if you think it'll leave like a tattoo applied with body paint, you would be mistaken.

The reason henna tattoos last longer is because the ink absorbs temporarily into the skin.

Henna tattoos appear on the skin in orange/brown colors, although an alternative has recently been discovered which offers options that are black like permanent tattoos, which we will be revealed down in the article.

Recent temporary tattoo development for kid's safety

Before I get in-depth into the henna tattoo issue, let's look at a recent application of tattoos developed for the safety of children who may get lost in a crowd.

A temporary tattoo strip has been created where it's applied to the child's body, usually the arm, but you can write down a cell phone number where you can be reached if they unfortunately become lost.

Children sometime wonder off in large crowds, and when someone in security finds them, or they're brought to security by someone, they can just call the number on the temporary tattoo and an anxious mom or dad can come and get them.
Children who get lost are frightened, and many times forget your telephone number. This helps them in those cases.

Of course the only downside to that is if someone sees your telephone number you may not want to. But unless your child really does get lost, that's small price to pay to get the peace of mind that comes with getting them back quickly.

Otherwise very few people would have the courage to attempt to get close enough to a child while their parents or caretakers are around to try to read and record or memorize the number. I think the good of this far outweighs the possible bad, but each one must make their own decision.

At least there's an option that can be decided on by those comfortable with it.

Safety Tattoos for Children

The Truth about henna and black henna

Recently a young boy has a temporary tattoo applied to his body, and some time after he got home from vacation it was found to have left a permanent mark on his body? How could that happen? That's the controversy surrounding the myth of what is called by some dishonest people - black henna.

The first thing to understand is there is no such thing as black henna. Henna comes from a plant, and when applied always has the coloration of brown, orange or burgundy, or something that is a mixture of that combination; usually a brownish or oranage-like color. Never does the plant extract appear black. 

Then what is it that is called "black henna?"

What is called black henna is actually the chemical para-Phenylenediamine (PPD), which is used in a number of cosmetic and industrial products we're very familiar with.

Some of the more common uses are in dyeing fabric, dark makeup, permanent hair dye, printing, photo development and photocopying inks, among a large number of other uses.

While the chemical has a low level of toxicity, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identifies PPD as a contact allergen. That means it shouldn't come in contact with the skin.

As far as that relates to temporary tattoos, and why the youngster mentioned earlier ended up with permanent scar marks in the shape of the tattoo, is dishonest tattoo artists will mix it with henna and call it 'black henna,' which again, doesn't exist, it's only the inclusion the PPD.

What drives the illegal use of PPD for tattooing is the darker colors which appear more like permanent tattoos, going on the skin as a black color, in contrast to the orange/brown colors of real henna. It also dries quick than true henna dye.

The consquences of having a tattoo dye applied which includes PPD is a skin reaction similar to a chemical burn. The result of that is the type of scarring mentioned about the child earlier.

This is more apt to happen because the concentration of PPD is far higher than when used in approved products like hair dyes. This is why there can be such a strong reaction, and even permanent allergic reactions can result from it.

Woman with airbrushed tattoo

How do you protect yourself from PPD?

The first thing to remember is there's no such thing as black henna. In reality it's adding PPD to the henna that is causing the real black color. If someone advertises black henna tattoos, don't allow yourself or anyone you're caring for to undergo the procedure.

Next, ask for a listing of the ingredients being used in the dye used for temporary tattoos. No good or reputable tattoo artist would think of refusing to allow you to see the ingredients.

Another thing to take into consideration is if a tattoo artist is in a store, hair or beauty salon that has gained your trust, don't assume they can automatically be trusted. The trust of the business doesn't necessarily transfer to the tattoo artist.

Many of these artists are only renting the space and the owner or management of the business would probably have no idea as to their integrity. Some tattoo artists have used these circumstances to pedal PPD dye. Of course most tattoo artists don't, but the point is to not assume, as to not check it out could result in permanent disfigurement of scarring wherever the tattoo was placed.

Angelina Jolie Temporary Tattoo

It's better not to have a tattoo from a street vendor in a tourist

If you're traveling, it's very tempting to trust the street vendor because they're quaint, seem local, and is part of the experience of your trip.

But if you're being tattooed with dye containing PPD, it won't start to show until over a week to 14 days after the dye was applied to your skin.  

Unless you're taking a long vacation, you won't even find out there's a problem until you get home.  

Conclusion on 'black henna' temporary tattoos

There are more things to watch out for, but most of us wouldn't ever remember them, as they're more subtle and secondary to the ones we already talked about.

To be safe, you need to remember PPD or para-Phenylenediamine, never be tattooed for someone claiming to have "black henna" dye, and listen they give you some warnings about allergies, not tattooing children, and other concerning things. If they do that, never allow yourself or anyone with you to be tattooed.

Another reminder: there's no such thing as black henna, only the application of dye containing PPD. 

Are there solutions to temporary black tattoos?

Yes there now are. There are new body paints which include the natural ingredients made up of ethanol, cellulose and cellulose derivatives, isapropanol, castor oil and ultramarien blue and black iron oxide.

These are completely safe, can be put on adults or children, and will give that rich, dark tattoo color permanent inking does. Go here for how it looks when applied, and how to do it.

When you see these tattoos, keep in mind it's the ingredients used when watching actors that have temporary tattoos to enhance the roles of the characters they're playing.

It's hardy enough to stay on if you have to shower, and can last up to several days. If you do want to take it off immediately, all you have to do is take a cotton ball and dip it in isopropyl alcohol and just wipe it off.

Another way to get great temporary dark tattoos

There is a fruit which grows in the Caribbean, southern Mexico and the northern part of South America, called in the region Huito, or also Jagua, the name by which it is more commonly known by in North America.

While the juice of the fruit is actually clear, when it's applied to the skin it turns into a dark bluish color which is very close to the permanent tattoo look. (You can go here to see how it works and looks.)

When you see some of the natives of the southern hemisphere with their body paint, this is the source of the coloring.

The advantages of temporary tattoos

Temporary tattoos are a lot of fun, and because they are very flexible and can be tried in a variety of body places and themes, offer something permanent tattoos can't offer.

For that reason they've become extremely popular, and many bands, entertainers and actors use them for a variety of personal and professionally reasons.

The days when there wasn't much that temporary tattoos could offer adults is long gone. Now you can get some really cool applications that show really nice, or you can just have fun with the many that exist that aren't meant to be works of art, but more of a statement.

Either way, there's a temporary tattoo out there waiting for you.


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